By Julie Johnsson and Richard Clough / Bloomberg
Boeing’s embattled boss said he has considered stepping down in the wake of two deadly crashes but vowed to stay on to lead the planemaker through one of the worst crises in its 103-year history.
“It’s fair to say I’ve thought about it,” Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said about resigning, speaking Wednesday at a conference. “But to be frank, that’s not what’s in my character.”
The Chicago-based manufacturer has been engulfed in crisis since March, when regulators grounded its best-selling 737 Max after two accidents killed 346 people. The pressure on Muilenburg has mounted as the plane’s anticipated return has slipped from May to the fourth quarter — or beyond — while regulators scrutinize redesigned software for the jet’s flight control system.
The accidents “happened on my watch, and I feel obligated, I feel responsible to stay on it, work with the team to fix it, to see it through,” Muilenburg said at the New York Times Dealbook Conference in New York.
Muilenburg said he would still like to be Boeing CEO three years from now, adding that he intended to stay on “as long as the board allows me to serve in this role.
The comments came a day after Boeing Chairman David Calhoun said on CNBC that the board still has confidence in the CEO. Muilenburg faced repeated calls last week to resign from U.S. lawmakers and relatives of crash victims during two days of grueling testimony on Capitol Hill.
Muilenburg stumbled during the hearings as lawmakers pressed him on details for his 27% pay hike last year — to $23 million in total compensation — and why he hadn’t pledged to donate his bonus in the wake of the 737 Max disasters. A jet operated by Lion Air slammed into the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018, followed by the March crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane near Addis Ababa.
After last week’s congressional hearings, Muilenburg decided to forgo short-term and long-term bonuses until the Max fleet is back in service, saying doing so would “send a message of responsibility.” The CEO was stripped of the chairman’s job last month.
Muilenburg visited with grieving crash relatives between the two sessions in Congress and said he was “heartbroken” by their stories of loss.
“I wish I had gone to visit them earlier,” he said at the Dealbook conference.